There is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
—George Bernard Shaw
Before you say something to your followers, consider being a leader instead.
—Brian Williams (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=njY8IINfFFw)
Courage is a word that means a lot of things to a lot of people.
For example, some view Michael Jordan’s performance in the NBA Finals with a bout of the flu as courageous. Many also consider Kirk Gibson’s one-legged World Series home run equally courageous.
On a deeper level, courage is seen as performing the correct action, and not necessarily the easy one. Atticus Finch famously speaks of this in “To Kill a Mockingbird” when he says: “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”
While I identify more with the fictional Finch’s definition than the athletic examples of courage, a Hollywood A-lister is showing an indescribable amount of courage to provide hope for millions of Americans.
Throughout his life, Michael J. Fox has been role model to many. His performance in the “Back to the Future” franchise and presence on the hit shows “Family Ties” and “Spin City” drew him a large and varied fan base. But as often is the case, you don’t truly learn about someone until they face adversity.
And adversity found Fox. Just as his career was beginning to take off, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. While he waited years to make the prognosis public, it was worth the wait. He has since founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has raised more than $300 million toward finding a cure for the disease.
While the Parkinson’s symptoms have become more noticeable on Fox, he’s refused to let his diagnosis slow him down. In addition to being the face of his foundation, he has decided to undertake a new project, which will help inspire millions.
Starting this fall, Fox will be hitting the small screen again with “The Michael J. Fox Show.” The show stars Fox as a news anchor who retires due to a Parkinson’s diagnosis, but ultimately returns to the studio to resume his old job.
Not only does this show break the normal formula for TV programs, it can also provide hope to those quietly facing trials. If Fox can return to TV more than two decades after his initial diagnosis, why should anyone else let a hardship or medical condition slow them down?
I’ve long held that actors shouldn’t be held as role models, but Fox appears to be the exception. It takes guts and courage to appear in front of millions of people when your symptoms are clearly visible. But he’s chosen to take the road less traveled and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
While Parkinson’s Disease has unfortunately turned into a punchline for crude and cruel jokes, the only ones that will be laughing at Fox and those he inspires are their doubters.